Valor Friday

| September 27, 2019


LT Conner

Mason’s back with another remarkable post of heroism in the line of duty. Today, he highlights the actions of LT. Garlin Murl Conner, USA, and his personal war against Nazi Germany.

Mason

A recent stolen valor case highlighted here featured a vest with a “DILLIGAF” patch. Do I look like I give a f—? Is what the patch means. When I look at this 1945 photo of Murl Conner, that saying seemed to jump back at me. Just in this one photo you can see he’s a straight-shooting, no nonsense kind of officer who, when confronted with some petty concern might say DILLIGAF? As you’ll read, he pretty much said it to thousands of Germans during WWII.

Garlin Murl Conner, known generally by his middle name, was not unlike many of his generation, the appropriately named “Greatest Generation.” He was part of a big family, the third of eleven children. Also like many his age, he was born and died in the same county. In this case, Clinton County, Kentucky, which has a population that’s hovered around 10,000 since the Great Depression. He also was called to serve during the Second World War.

Born in 1919 and raised in rural Kentucky, Murl’s formal education ended at the 8th grade. When World War II started, he was of prime military age and was enlisted on March 1st, 1941. Four of his brothers also served during the war.

Assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment (part of the 3rd Infantry Division), he underwent basic training with his unit at Fort Lewis in Washington. From there, the division was sent to Camp Ord, California and then Fort Pickett, Virginia.

The division left the US, headed for Europe in October, 1942. Participating in the invasion of French North Africa, Conner took part in a total of four amphibious landings through eight campaigns as the division helped conquer North Africa and moved up into Italy and then France.

After fighting to take Sicily, the 7th Infantry landed at Salerno on mainland Italy on September 18, 1943. By now holding the rank of Sergeant, Conner was a communications sergeant. In October, 1943 his unit was caught by a heavy German counter attack. He noticed a group of American men who had become separated from the Allied line of battle. Without the help of their platoon, these men were under withering fire as the Germans looked for a spot to push through the American line.

Conner, leaving a position of relative safety as a communications NCO, went of his own accord to where these embattled men were. With total disregard for his own safety he ran into the heavy enemy fire to begin directing the men. He rendered first aid to the wounded while giving orders to those still standing and allowed the men to hold against the enemy assault.

For his heroics that day, Conner was awarded the Silver Star.


Silver Star

Just a few months later, still in Italy, this time near Ponte Rotto, Italy, Murl would again distinguish himself in battle. On January 30, 1944, having been promoted to Technical Sergeant two weeks prior, Conner organized an assault group to take a strongly fortified enemy house.

This particular house had already wounded four GIs and was known to be manned by enemy soldiers equipped with machine guns and machine pistols. The house needed to be taken as it was blocking an attack being made by the rest of Company K.

Conner enlisted a bazooka team and two rifle grenadiers. Leading these men across 50 years of exposed terrain he began to openly direct the fire of his assault team. His direction of fire was so accurate that at 25 yards out from the house they had silenced one machine gun and two machine pistols and sent a fourth weapons team running.

Thanks to his daring and calm leadership under fire, the company was able to continue their advance unhindered. Conner received his second Silver Star for that day. A few weeks later he’d receive his first Purple Heart for wounds sustained in combat on March 6, 1944.


Purple Heart

In June, 1944 his obvious leadership traits would be recognized with a battlefield commission. He remained with Company K after being made a second lieutenant.

The 3rd Infantry Division pushed up through Italy and drove the Germans back into occupied France. The 3rd ID then landed on the French Riviera as part of Operation Dragoon starting August 15, 1944. During fighting in August he was again wounded, receiving a second Purple Heart.

On September 11th, Conner and Company K were taken under heavy enemy fire. Shells exploding as close as 10 yards away didn’t deter Conner though. Despite losing six men early and later losing three to the heavy shell fire, Conner continued to advance, inspiring his men to continue their advance.

Once they had got about 300 yards away from the enemy positions, Conner crawled forward through enemy fire that repeatedly nearly struck him, for a further 250 yards. He was now close enough to see the enemy positions. Crawling back to his men, he led them along a covered route to behind the enemy lines.

Conner then led his men on a surprise attack from the enemy’s rear. The surprise attack took out a machine gun, two mortars, killed three of the enemy, captured seven more, and caused the remaining enemy troops to flee.

Conner received a third Silver Star for this. He also earned a third Purple Heart.

Promoted to first lieutenant just before the turn of the new year, the 7th Infantry continued its push through France. In the early hours of January 24, 1945 Conner was near the town of Houssen, France when they were ferociously attacked by 600 enemy troops, supported by six tanks and tank destroyers.

Having just returned to his unit after being wounded in September and being promoted to first lieutenant while away, he was acting as intelligence officer at 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry in the command post when the attack began. Recognizing that the tanks would destroy his infantry unit he volunteered to move forward to call in artillery strikes on the enemy armor.

With a spool of telephone wire and field phone in hand he ran headlong into the thrust of the enemy assault. Over 400 yards of terrain targeted by enemy artillery, with trees exploding around him and shrapnel raining down, he reached the American front line.

Still unable to see the enemy positions to his satisfaction, he moved another 30 yards past the defensive line and into a shallow ditch. The ditch offering minimal protection from the advancing enemy heavy machine gun and small arms fire, Conner took to the field phone and calmly directed fire missions.

With enemy rounds impacting all around him, the enemy continued to advance. Murl called in the artillery strikes closer and closer, until they were coming down danger close.

Eventually the enemy attack stopped as they were brought under American artillery fire. The enemy took shelter behind a dike. For three hours Conner would lie prone in that nearly exposed position, subjected to repeated and near constant enemy fire.

The enemy eventually regrouped. Conner could see that they were massing for an overwhelming assault. As they closed to within five yards of his position, Conner ordered American artillery down on his position, resolving himself to die to stop the advance.

Having asked friendly artillery to blanket his position, the shells rained down and exploded all around him. Through all this Conner somehow maintained his composure and continued to call down fire on his position, now fully being swarmed by the German assault.

The enemy finally broke off their attack, unable to get through the artillery Conner was calling in on himself. The artillery he called in was estimated to have killed 50 enemy soldiers and wounding a hundred more.

Conner would receive the Distinguished Service Cross for his performance that day.


Distinguished Service Cross

Not done with wartime heroics yet, on February 3, 1945 Conner took command of a disorganized and heavily battered rifle company. He led these men on an assault covering 200 yards of enemy targeted ground.

As bullets struck around him, he charged forward. His men following him, Conner’s “grim ferocity” (as the award citation reads) took the enemy aback, shattering their morale. He closed with the enemy forces and led his men in hand-to-hand fighting. He and his men killed 12 and captured 75, eviscerating the enemy resistance in the town.

Conner received his fourth Silver Star for that. Just a week after his actions for this day, he was personally presented the Distinguished Service Cross by Lieutenant General Alexander Patch, the commander of the US Seventh Army on February 10th.

After all of that and 28 months in theater, the Army must have thought he’d done his share. He was rotated back to the States in March, 1945 and discharged June 22nd, 1945.

He was given a hero’s welcome upon returning home in May, 1945. Sergeant Alvin York who lived nearby in Tennessee was a guest speaker. This led to a lifelong friendship between the two heroic men. During this event Conner gave a frank report to the assembled citizens on the war in Europe. By all accounts it was the last time he openly talked about the war.

He soon met a young lady, Pauline Lyda Wells. After a week long courtship they married. They lived on a farm with no electricity or running water and worked the farm with horses and mules. He had one son, one grandson, and three granddaughters. Despite being considered 80% disabled due to his war wounds, he continued farming and for 17 years served as president of the Clinton County (Kentucky) Farm Bureau. Conner was active with veteran service organizations like the Disabled American Veterans and the Paralyzed Veterans of America. Despite his own disabilities he continued to help his comrades and would travel to nearby counties to help vets file benefits claims.

Murl Conner died in 1998. In the decades between the war and his death he found peace in farming. He never talked about the war, even with fellow soldiers or his wife. Humble to a fault, once word started to spread of what he’d done in the war (and how his bravery compared to the much more famous Audie Murphy), people were surprised. When his son, as a boy, would ask his dad about the war he’d say “We went over there, we did what we had to do, and it needs to stay over there.” He’d give similarly terse replies when friends and neighbors asked.

Starting in 1996, there was a concerted and continuous effort to have Conner’s Distinguished Service Cross upgraded to the Medal of Honor. Comparisons were made to Audie Murphy’s famous Medal of Honor earning actions where he held off a similarly large German advance single-handedly. Murphy’s actions were just two days after Conners, and both men were a part of the 3rd Infantry Division.

Over the course of the next two decades Conner’s supporters, led by his widow Pauline, fought the Army, even going to court, to try and get the award upgraded. With sworn testimony of eyewitnesses crediting Conner with saving the battalion that day, the award remained. His former commander had this to say:

“There is no doubt that Lt. Conner should have been awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. One of the most disappointing regrets of my career is not having the Medal of Honor awarded to the most outstanding soldier I’ve ever had the privilege of commanding.”
—?Maj. Gen. Lloyd B. Ramsey, Ret.

Despite all this, the award was denied him until finally in October of 2015, a federal appeals court ordered Conner’s supporters and the Army’s Board of Correction to mediation. This resulted in the award upgrade being a part of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2018, which was signed by President Trump. Trump then presented the medal to Conner’s widow on June 26, 2018.


Medal of Honor, Army

Thanks, Mason. Hand Salute. Ready, Two!

Category: Army, Guest Post, Valor

Comments (10)

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  1. 5th/77th FA says:

    Now we know who was Audie Murphy’s Hero and role model. Notice how Mason talked about the commo troops using the King of Battle to stop the attacks. Notice too, how the man that was surely “in the sh^t” stayed humble and just went on with his life, never discussing what all he did. Damn shame it took so long to recognize this.

    All guns…Fire by the piece from right to left…..Commence Firing!

    Awesome post Mason. It is appreciated. I am humbled by such men.

  2. 11B-Mailclerk says:

    Willing and Able!

    Cottonbalers!

  3. ninja says:

    Mason wrote:

    “He never talked about the war, even with fellow soldiers or his wife. Humble to a fault, once word started to spread of what he’d done in the war (and how his bravery compared to the much more famous Audie Murphy), people were surprised. When his son, as a boy, would ask his dad about the war he’d say “We went over there, we did what we had to do, and it needs to stay over there.” He’d give similarly terse replies when friends and neighbors asked.”

    So true about those who really received Valor awards compared to those who either embellished or lied about their Awards or Badges.

    Thank You, Mason, for sharing.

    • Toxic Deplorable Racist B Woodman says:

      For those who were there, no explanation is necessary
      For those who weren’t there, no explanation is enough.

  4. Toxic Deplorable Racist B Woodman says:

    Damn! It’s sure dusty here. Where’s my allergy medicine and kleenex?
    ‘Scuse me a moment (HONNNK) Thank you.

    All we can do is repeat that prayer, “Thank God that such men lived”.

    GROUP!
    A-TEN-TION!
    PRE-SENT ARMS!
    OR-DER ARMS!
    Parade rest
    Rest

  5. Jay says:

    MURL. Im sorry….if I every pissed of a man named MURL i’m just going to go ahead an apologize right then and there. You trifle with a man named Murl and you are courting death.

    Awarded FOUR Silver Stars, THREE Purple Hearts and the Medal of Honor during 18 months of kicking ass in Europe.

    Good thing i’d never have to worry about him sneaking up on me. His gigantic clanging balls would give him away

    WOW!

  6. Wilted Willy says:

    I just love these great stories of such bravery. I often wonder what my pos brother thinks when he sees such stories of men who really did earn their medals? How could that scumbag even keep up with the lies about his derring do? I hope he feels like the real piece of shit that he is!!
    May God Bless true heroes such as Murl!
    BZ Murl!!

    • AW1Ed says:

      That’s one of the reasons for Valor Friday, WW. To showcase real heroes (not that would ever claim that) as a foil to valor thieves and posers.

      Mason deserves the accolades for his research and and writing.

      Bravo Zulu, Mason. Another great write-up, thanks.

  7. Graybeard says:

    Wow.

    To be a citizen worthy of such men…

  8. OmegaPaladin says:

    I always wonder about the guys marching behind a hero like this. What are they thinking as this guy’s improbable heroic save the day?